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FRANCESTOWN

Bridge repairs on hold until summer 2014

Back road traffic heats up as drivers look for detours

  • The bridge on 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike leading into Francestown has been closed down to traffic, while options to repair the bridge were dismissed after an evaluation by an engineering firm.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    The bridge on 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike leading into Francestown has been closed down to traffic, while options to repair the bridge were dismissed after an evaluation by an engineering firm.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Detour signs signal drivers to take Red House Road instead of the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike, which is closed to traffic and in need of repair.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Detour signs signal drivers to take Red House Road instead of the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike, which is closed to traffic and in need of repair.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Vehicles are required to take the Red House Road detour around the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike bridge, which has been closed due to safety violations.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Vehicles are required to take the Red House Road detour around the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike bridge, which has been closed due to safety violations.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • A vehicle returns to the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike after detouring around the bridge that has been closed to traffic in Francestown.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    A vehicle returns to the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike after detouring around the bridge that has been closed to traffic in Francestown.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.


    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • The bridge on 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike leading into Francestown has been closed down to traffic, while options to repair the bridge were dismissed after an evaluation by an engineering firm.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Detour signs signal drivers to take Red House Road instead of the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike, which is closed to traffic and in need of repair.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Vehicles are required to take the Red House Road detour around the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike bridge, which has been closed due to safety violations.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • A vehicle returns to the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike after detouring around the bridge that has been closed to traffic in Francestown.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bruce and Danielle Harrington stand outside of their Francestown home on Red House Road, the detour around the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

FRANCESTOWN — When two key town bridges were shut down in December 2012 due to instability, the Francestown Select Board had hoped a temporary repair might be an option for at least one of the bridges . Detour routes were implemented around bridges on the 2nd N.H. Turnpike and Woodward Hill Road, bringing longer commutes for some and more traffic to back-route neighborhood roads that isn’t expected to let up for at least another year and a half due to the hefty price tag on temporary repairs.

Bruce and Danielle Harrington are among the residents who live on Red House Road, which is part of the detour route around the Turnpike bridge and an area that they say was previously less frequently traveled. Their house is very close to the road, and they say backing their cars out onto the street has become more difficult.

“Just backing out of our driveway, it’s actually dangerous because with [Bruce’s] truck there and with the snowbanks, you don’t have a clear view,” Danielle said Tuesday in an interview at her home. “And there’s so much more traffic.”

At a Select Board meeting on Jan. 7, the Harringtons, along with other residents, voiced concerns about the detour routes.. They said some drivers are unaware of the stop sign at the intersection of Red House Road and Route 136 , and vehicles coming over the hill headed toward New Boston may not have time to react if another car turning from Red House Road onto Route 136 doesn’t heed the stop sign .

According to the notice of closure released by the Select Board after meetings held Dec. 5 and 6, it was determined that “the risk of failure and level of liability were such that both [the Turnpike and Woodward Hill] bridges needed to be closed.”

After exploring options to temporarily repair the bridges, the Select Board ruled that the work is not feasible at this time as there are no cost-effective options for short-term repair, and the bridges will remain closed for an extended period of time. Temporary repairs on either one of the bridges would have cost the town up to $250,000.

Select Board Chair Betsy Hardwick said that the only reasonable thing to do is wait for fiscal year 2015, which begins in the summer of 2014, when state bridge aid will fund in part the necessary construction for the Turnpike bridge.

The state will pay 80 percent of the reconstruction, leaving 20 percent on the shoulders of local taxpayers.

There are two other bridges in Francestown on the state’s red list for repair: the Juniper Hill bridge, which is slated to receive funding in the state’s fiscal year 2016, and the South New Boston bridge, eligible for state funding in fiscal year 2020.

The estimated cost for reconstructing the Turnpike bridge adjusted for inflation is $1.2 million, while the estimated cost for repairing the Woodward Hill Road bridge is $800,000. The Turnpike bridge is scheduled for reconstruction in the summer of 2014, while construction on the Woodward Hill bridge will likely begin in the summer of 2015. The DOT will not move the set date of reconstruction for the Turnpike up any sooner, according to a notice posted on the town’s website.

The solutions proposed by the town to temporarily fix the 2nd N.H. Turnpike bridge were reviewed by an engineering firm hired to evaluate the situation, but were ultimately deemed unsuitable.

“While previously there appeared to be several viable options to repair the bridge on the 2nd N.H. Turnpike, according to our engineering firm, CLD Engineers, at this time the solutions are insufficient to meet current standards in terms of hydraulic capacity,” Francestown Administrative Coordinator Mike Branley wrote in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Jan. 8.

Even if the town could temporarily repair one of the bridges, it would not delay the need for reconstruction.

The Turnpike bridge is a two-culvert, two-lane bridge that was constructed in 1983. The Woodward Hill Road bridge is a one-culvert, two-lane bridge built in 1977.

As for difficulties the closure presents, Hardwick said that some are pretty obvious.

“Increased time and mileage to get anywhere for those who live in or travel through the impacted areas, the annoyance of increased traffic for those who live on detour routes, and increased time for emergency vehicles to get to those areas affected,” Hardwick wrote in an email.

There are only two detour routes available for the Turnpike and Woodward Hill bridges: Red House Road to New Boston Road (Route 136) is a detour for the Turnpike, and Red House Road to Cross Road goes around the Turnpike bridge. Traveling Red House Road to Cross Road and back to the Turnpike adds about 0.6 miles to a commute, while the Red House Road connection to Route 136 adds a little over a mile to a drive.

Bruce and Danielle Harrington said they like to take walks on their street with their dog, Molly, and enjoy biking when the weather is nice. And while the speed limit on Red House Road is 30 miles per hour, Bruce said even when a car drives by doing the speed limit, it feels a lot faster to someone on foot.

“The problem is, when you’re walking, 30 is fast,” Bruce said. “When you’re walking by a car doing 30 miles per hour, it feels like they’re speeding, even though they’re not.”

They mentioned that the ski traffic to Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride now runs by their house, noting that people coming from out-of-state could be in a rush to get to or from the mountain, and now have a detour to face.

Rhett Darner works in New Boston and frequently travels to Milford from Hillsborough, and he used to take the Turnpike to cut some time off his commute. He said that the detour doesn’t affect him too much, since it’s only about a mile out of his way.

“It’s not too big of a deal,” Darner said in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript at the Francestown Village Store on Tuesday . “As long as you’re paying attention and are aware of it.”

The Harrington’s suggested heavier signage in town to alert drivers ahead of time of the detour around the bridge.

Darner added that this situation is similar to when the bridge that led to Route 202 on the Turnpike went out in Deering some years ago, which for him was “outrageous” in terms of adding time to his commute. “I can imagine that this is going to be the same deal,” he said.

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